Why Everyone Needs a Backcountry Setup

Why Everyone Needs a Backcountry Setup

Every true skier or Mountain Fanatic should own ski touring equipment.

The secret is out: skiing uphill is great exercise and a ton of fun. While the Europeans have known this for sometime, the sport is just starting to catch fire stateside. With our fitness crazed residents and vast mountain playground, ski-touring in Central Oregon is one of the best ways to explore our Wilderness. With that being said, I am here to argue that you don’t ever need to step foot in avalanche terrain to justify the purchase of an uphill setup.

We get it, avalanches and the thought of going deep into the backcountry is scary.  The experience of spending time in snow covered mountains without having to bump elbows with thousands of overexcited skiers is the beauty of ski touring. It’s about moving slow, enjoying the moment, and getting a killer low impact workout. Much like mountain biking, you can max out your bodies output easily while touring, without crunching your joints. The best part? You can accomplish all of this by skinning uphill at your local resort.

Imagine this: You finish your day at work and make your way up the Cascade Lakes Highway. The sun is setting in your windshield and the alpenglow of the mountains light your way west.  You get up to Dutchman’ parking lot, the cool air floods your car and you don your ski boots and begin your ascent.  The temperature drops just as your body starts to warm up and you are greeted with stunning views of Bachelor in your backdrop.  As you crest the top of Tumalo, you get a magnificent view of the Three Sisters with the sun setting behind it.  You look to the east to see the moon in the horizon that will light your way back to the car.  You have a slight sweat going but you feel the cool flood inside your jacket.  You throw on a puffy and warm gloves, peel your skins and set down the hill with a pristine powder run awaiting.  

You snake through the trees back to your car, crack open a beer.  Your body satiated and your mind clear for a restful sleep.
You are settling into dinner at home and Bob Shaw or NOAA is reporting 6-12 inches overnight.  You know the mountain is going to be packed with powder hungry gomers at the resort.  So, instead you want a fresh few lines of powder before the lifts open.  In the morning you grab your AT capable ski set up, head up the cone for a few laps before the lifts start spinning.  After  a few hours of exercing and powder slaying the cone, you are satiated and head over to the lift line, high five your pals eager to get on the lift and feel comfortable and ready for a few laps with your friends, knowing you already have your powder fix under your feet.  You let the powder starved kooks race for fresh tracks, instead simply enjoying the motion of sliding on snow.  Enjoy it, you already earned it. 

Once you’re comfortable using this different type of gear, there is always the option to ski-tour out of bounds. Hut trips, steep spring skiing, and low angled mid winter powder laps are just a few of the allures of skiing out of bounds. If this is something that interests you, we recommend taking an educational course or hiring a guide to explore the mountains in their virgin form. With the proper training or guidance, backcountry skiing can even be a safer endeavor than driving up the Cascades Lake Highway on any given Saturday morning. However, if your risk tolerance is zero (which is both understandable and ok!) then you can always stick to skiing either the Cone or the Uphill route up Leeway on Mt. Bachelor proper.